Monday, March 30, 2009

growing trust for an exploring heart

"The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity--hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory--because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor, and was born in a stable so that thirty years later He might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear." - J.I. Packer

Other than what most people think, I really am not a good student. I admire good students and want to be among there disciplined society, but am not (yet!). The majority of my branches require major pruning and my hope often takes misdirection from the winds of emotions. "It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (1 Timothy 1:15). There was something I was not prepared for when I met Christ. I did not see that I needed to be taught everything (which has been much my continual humbling). Questions about the trinity and the life of Jesus and relationships with people were explained by fuzzy characters on picture boards before I could puzzle over their real lives myself. Daily I am finding new mountains at the edges of my little 100-acre woods. They are terrific in heights, and I realize that my view is different than that on the top. For example, I do not appreciate enough my need of the Holy Spirit in my life--my dependence. Between John 16 and 1 Corinthians 2 the Holy Spirit is the one who convinces the world of sin and righteousness and judgement and makes scripture alive and powerful to us. We see Jesus as beautiful, because the Spirit explains Him to us. I also have not appreciate the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as I should. To be honest it can even bother my natural perspective. Jesus does what the Father sends him to do and the Holy Spirit does what the Father and Jesus ask. I cringe. Doesn't Jesus have his own opinion? I even get selfish for him. Doesn't the Holy Spirit get to choose or get a vacation from the demands of the Father and Son? I am so used to seeing the degrading relationships in the world function that it is hard to appreciate the beauty of righteousness and relationships that are actually corresponding and perfect. There is no fear within the Trinity. They are One God, perfectly united in will. Jesus said, "it is my food and delight to do the will of the Father." And the Spirit cause the vulnerable heart, filled with the honey dew meat of scripture to sing praise to the Father and Son. When the Father spectacularly and openly shares his affection for his Son, "this is my Son!," it is like watching a shared complement (as in the Derek Webb song, "I went into the water, my Father he was pleased..."). Instead I think that I have often seen the world and have found myself to be fairly educated on how it should work. And then I hit a wall or break a leg (ha! not always figuratively). In all honesty I can tell you that I have found the Bible to be better and truer than the best that I can come up with, but still my heart tells me to listen to the plagues that still land in passing swarms over my heart. The temptation then begins: I have heard that (what is the Bible) before. Yes! Ihave heard it, but am not appreciating it. I pour the water on the ground. And so I like my own thoughts better, and think of them more highly (even the doubts). How many have claimed to be in love and think only small and distant thoughts of the the object of their admiration? Listen to the words of God when you lie down and when you wake up. Pursue them like the rich reward they are. Mine deep into the quarries of the Word. David said, "Where can I go to meet with God?" Where can I go, God? It is true in vineyards that the best grapes are the first pick that struggled to survive during the winter. Oh Lord, let our lives be like the enduring wine with unmistakable taste! Let our lives be evidence that we explored and appreciated You, seeing that You are worth our boldest effort and most constant thought. I think it is true, or at least am learning, that there is much more yet to be discovered and proceeding requires trusting God.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Francis Schaeffer: Letters

"I read your letter with care and would certainly want to do everything I can to help" - Francis Schaeffer, from Letters of Francis Schaeffer.

How good it is to find a kindred soul! I miss sitting down with friends and talking around sturdy wood tables. There is something extraordinary about hearing from a friend because they were thinking about you. How refreshing it is to hear someone who really knows you say, "hello!"--to be cherished. Something got me meditating tonight on the word "cherish." The Greek word THALPO, which is translated "cherish," primarily means to heat, to soften by heat; then, to keep warm, as of birds covering their young with their feathers; metaphorically, to cherish with tender love, to foster tender care (Vine).

Friday, March 13, 2009

my hope is built on nothing less

Since I am already 2 hours past my bedtime (which seems to elude me nearly every evening) I will write. Here is the summation of my theology (always a good subject to think on when you are preparing to retire for the night, "for if I die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take," as the child's bedtime lullaby goes): not that I loved Christ, but that Christ loved me. I do want to love Him, and try with all my might, but there are days that I don't or days that I am bound by struggles. One monotone band one put it: "And some days I don't love You at all." I hate to say it, but when the deep cries out to deep, my soul must say, "Yes, Lord, You know this about me, because you know me completely." I usually don't add the part about "being dust," because to tell you the truth I do not often feel like dust (probably because I have never attributed feelings to dust.) Anyway, the reason for being up so late is that I have been working on a homework assignment to reveal the innards of Colossians. Tonight was Colossians 2:6-15. It begins by giving us a command: "walk." It even outlines what a healthy life would look like. We are the subject (to use grammatical terms) or the doers of faith, with Christ as our object (the one our faith is being done too, to put it in a funny way). And many Christians carry on in that with that same mentality, like workers standing outside a day-by-day labor office who never expect to be permanently hired. Once we received our marching orders we take it from there. The next paragraph is when we see behind the scenes, much like a child catching the tooth-fairy that looks strangely like mother in her nightgown. The work is Christ's. He is our hero. In one paragraph it uses the precise wording "in Him" and "with Him" 8 times. Oh Christian, understand your salvation. You miss out if you see yourself as the founder and finisher of your faith (Heb.12). The climax of this section is the final act of Christ nailing our sins to the cross. When you see it there is a wave of nostalgia. Your mind brightens to the fact that it really was Him all along. Think of a child peeping through a slightly cracked door to to watch their father caringly prepare the fire on Christmas morning. The thought should enter our minds, "Oh how I have been cared for! I have taken for granted this love. When I just now looked I saw that He was nailing my sins to the tree. All this while I thought that I was the one doing the willing and the working, but then I saw Him there. He did not consult me, but took them there to the cross. He took them by Himself. I would have never thought to ask Him, but He did it anyway. What can I do know? I feel like all has been done for me." What can you do Christian? Thank Him. Open your heart wide to Him and let his unexpected love have access to every part. Abide in Him. While you were distracted by doing it yourself, abiding was all He ever wanted.

There it is! Goodnight.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

grab somebody!

I do not have much time to write tonight, but wanted to keep somewhat consistent in posting. I want to only post what is real and true, so please do not feel like this is a cheap post. My heart is with you that read. I often receive the most lovely emails from people telling me that they are praying for me. If you have never received one I suggest that you start sending them because they are contagious, like a good french kiss (ha! I can only assume). I have heard it said, "God would have come and died if it was only for me." Such poppycock, I have never heard such a selfish thing. God delights in the praises of His people, not merely person. Yes, He died for you...and the world. Strain your ear to hear the beating of the drums, the rising notes, the lifting song, the strength of innumerable voice, a cloud of witnesses gathered around the throne, "worthy is the Lamb!" Do not forget that you are accompanied. I sat on a stool across from a boy at the coffee shop today. I taught him a few chords on the guitar and we sang the song "How He Loves." It is a great way to evangelize: "here's a few chords, now let's sing about Jesus." This boy has been in my prayers for months (he is actually the same boy I wrote about in the last quarterly newsletter for Hope In Christ Ministries). He struggles and feels ashamed by them, and I am glad to reassure him that the love of God and my love doesn't change because of that. I am not saying it is always easy. Sometimes I find it very hard to love, but God has made my heart really tender towards this boy. I told him about the family of God. I got excited as I talked. I would love to see the arms of the church be opened in embrace. I am convinced they will be when we see that the love of Christ speaks a better word than all the empty claims of the earth. So embrace others. I don't know about you, but I love to be embrace (ha! I am sounding all sentimental). Not those namby-pamby embraces were the butt is sticks out and the shoulders connect for a brief grab and release. No! I like being unashamedly grabbed. God grabbed us, grab somebody. Send someone an email, and let them know you care. Let there be no thought in there mind when they are done reading it as to whether or not you really care about them. Express yourself, because God expressed Himself towards you. We so easily forget that people enjoy being cared for just like we enjoy being cared for.

On a more personal note: please pray that God gives me success in all that I do. It seems like every minutes is followed by another very full one and I want my days to be fragrant. I am certain that God never makes us too busy to miss out on achieving a "well done, good and faithful servant!" In particular I will be preaching more at Church (which I really enjoy) and also be spending more face-to-face time with kids, building enduring mentoring relationships (which I don't always feel especially skilled at).